Memo to Nigerians: Milestones to Remember

Memo to Nigerians: Milestones to Remember
Rev. Fr. Dr. Gerald Njoku

It said: “At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall”. Thus, ahead of her visit to Nigeria last year’s August, Mrs. Theresa May, British Prime Minister, lamented: “Much of Nigeria is thriving, with many individuals enjoying the fruits of a resurgent economy, yet 87 million Nigerians live below $1 and 90 cents a day, making it home to more very poor people than any other nation in the World”.

Yet, in spite of our incessant warnings, the government has failed to create an enabling environment for business to thrive and is consequently not getting enough tax revenue to help the poor. Institutional barriers such as the squabbles among government agencies located at the ports slow down the pace of doing business in the country. Government has also refused to address the cost of doing business, forcing many firms to reduce their operations, lay off staff, or go into extinction.

Nor has it addressed the country’s infrastructures, deficit, particularly in electricity generation. We have not been persuaded to change our opinion that it is a thriving private sector, not stipend-shaving government that holds the key to poverty reduction.
To be sure, in sharp contrast to the pains of the populace, the political class led by President Muhammadu Buhari has been very comfortable; enjoying the perks of the country’s skewed federalism and scoffing at the end for a restructured polity. Power remains concentrated at the centre, with unmanageable weight on the exclusive legislature list. Nigeria needs a government that will restructure the polity. Without this, poverty can only worsen in the country. I call on the youths to embrace entrepreneurship as a means of survival.

State of Unpredictability

A friend of mine told me he had a dream and in that dream when the result of the February 16 presidential election was made known, the winner was neither incumbent Buhari nor contender Atiku. It was rather a presidential candidate mostly unknown to many. I called it a flight of fancy. But it remains contestable within the realm of possibility. The day dream must have been structured on the even spread apathy among voters on the binary choice before them.

Generally, governance lacks discernible improvement in the plight of the masses. We see around us old brigades and recycling of political leadership. Most of the 91 registered political parties only exist by name, revving up enthusiasm through their superior social media survey. In our state of unpredictability, I hear only rhetorics and no reforms rocked in concrete terms. Some are hopeless and many skeptically bemused whether the electoral process could stand as a powerful means of change.

Many of the parties are not campaigning, which means they are embarking on vote buying, rigging, intimidation and even assassinations for subversion. The partisans are buying the cards and Voter Identification Numbers with the goal of skewing the ballot. Either to stop the voters from voting at all or hack the INEC system with the card readers somehow preloaded ahead of the election and compromised. Can INEC turn their tricks into futile effort? I pray. But it is difficult to stop desperate people and desperate politicians from being desperate and doing desperate things.

In our state of unpredictability, some are afraid of the people’s will. If we extol democracy, then there must be implicit pledge to ensure fair election. Democracy based on compromised elections is much like a house built on sinking sand. As I read Rotimi Amaechi in the leaked audio tape gave an insightful critique of President Buhari by saying…”Everybody is crying”. He offered a blistering profile on Buhari.

As a moralist, I vote for causing change without chaos. Let there be restructuring, otherwise referendum. Again, I subscribe to the opinions of the people that Amina Zakari, the said niece of Buhari chosen by him as INEC collation officer is not proper. Let ethnicity not triumph over ethics, let loyalty to the hierarchy at the top not supersede loyalty to the common good, let expediency not flex more muscle than adherence to sound principles and most of all, let the will of the majority in the spirit of democracy be allowed to crystallize in the forthcoming elections. These are the anecdotes to our state of unpredictability. The roadmap to peace! God bless Nigeria!!

By Rev. Fr. Dr. Gerald C. Njoku